The "dare-devil" is of such ancient lineage that it is said to have been known in Ireland as long as that country has been an island; certainly there is no record of this ancient breed in Noah's' Ark. A famous Irish terrier fancier explained this by saying that there was no need for him to have indoor accommodation, owing to the ease with which he could swim alongside.
He is truly a son of Erin, having the characteristics of the Irish in cuteness, "divilment," and keenness for sport; quite ready and able for a "scrap" should you tread on the tail of his coat, but, withal, good-tempered and lovable to a degree.
He has been bred by "the foinest pisintry in Europe" for his sporting proclivities, and has been used regularly for some form of sport. This gives him life and character. As Paddy never liked his dog to be beaten by his neighbour's, it came about that always the most sporting were bred from; and to-day, in consequence, we have in our " dare-devil " the "devil-may-care" temperament, the sporting instinct, the keen nose, and the best pal a man ever had.
In former days men were not particular as to precise shade or texture of coat nor weight; but since the breed has been taken up by a body of fanciers, and bred to a standard, this, without doubt, has brought the Irish terrier to its present condition of excellence.
The Irish terrier is essentially a sporting dog, and by instinct a vermin destroyer. At hunting, swimming, and killing rats he has no rival; he is very intelligent, and can be broken easily to gun and taught to retrieve both on land and water. The writer has spent many enjoyable days ferreting with these terriers. They have good noses and can move like the wind.
The "Irishman" is very hardy, and can stand any amount of fatigue. He has a superb workmanlike jacket, which is hard, dense, and weatherresisting. At badger he is excellent, and his love of the water makes him useful for bolting otters; for unearthing the fox, too, he is held in high esteem in Ireland. It is not, however, for all the foregoing virtues that his admirers love their favourite terrier, but as a chum. There is that about him that one learns to love; and he has a truly Irish knack of wheedling his way into his owner's heart, there to find an abiding resting-place, for there never was a dog more devoted and faithful. As I write, one looks up at me with those wicked, oft-described, characteristic eyes of his, game looking, keen and varminty, peculiar to the breed, yet full of love and devotion.
In appearance he is a smart-looking, game, and good-tempered terrier Of about twenty-five pounds; and to those who prefer a medium-size dog, he will always appeal.
As a child's companion and defender he has no compeer, being an ideal nursery dog; he will allow himself to be pulled about anyhow by children, and will never resent it. In over twenty years' experience of these dogs I have never known one bite a child, nor have I been bitten by one.
As a show dog I know of no breed in which the competition is more open; the novice stands as good a chance to-day as the veteran. The breed is not in the hands of one or two, who do all the winning. When I began to breed these terriers, a few good ones stood away at the top, the others nowhere; but of recent years there has been a great levelling up in the breed, and the difference between the "best and the rest" has greatly diminished. The breed was never more popular than at present, and never had more supporters.
Some famous Specimens
Irish terriers are immensely popular in America, to which country many of our best emigrate, attracted by the almighty dollar. Big prices are frequently obtained, many having been sold for over £200. Champion Straight Tip was sold for £400, and it is said that the owner of Champion Bolton Woods Mixer refused £700 for him. This dog had the unique distinction of annexing over 2,000 prizes, including 100 championships. He was so profitable to his owner that he was known as "the bread-winner." This dog and Champion Breda Muddler may be said to have been the most successful stud dogs, and were both sired by Champion Breda Mixer, a dog which combined character and quality with a good head and nice front.
Indeed, Champion Breda Muddler was probably the best stud dog of all time, having sired amongst many champions several which have made history, and whose names will always be remembered. They include Champion Paymaster, a dog of the grandest type, quality, and character; Champion Bawn Beauty, a bitch that has never been equalled in head, ears, and expression, and who, with more liberty of movement, would have been almost perfect; Champion Mile End Muddler, excelling in coat, colour, body, legs, and feet, who had a lengthy and most successful show career, and was a most successful sire; Champion Mile End Barrister, a gentleman of the fancy; also the big winners Champion Charmian and Champion Charwoman.
Of dogs of to-day it would be invidious to make mention, since of good ones there are many. Champion Tender and True and Champion Tipperary Tyke are the nearest to perfection I have been able to breed; the former, my constant and devoted companion, is as game and as sweet in disposition as she is good to look at.
The interests of the breed are looked after by about nine clubs, of which the Irish Terrier Association is the last but not the least, with a lady as joint honorary secretary. These clubs are all working for the common good of an interesting breed. They define precisely and publish a description of the true type, which is briefly as follows : Head, long; skull, flat and rather narrow between the ears; punishing jaw; eye, a dark hazel colour, small, not prominent, and full of life, fire, and intelligence; ears small, set well on the head, and dropping forward close to the cheek; legs straight, moderately long, with plenty of bone and muscle; feet round and thick, with good heels, and moderately small; chest narrow, with good depth of brisket; shoulders sloping well into back; back strong and straight, with tail (which is docked) set on rather high; body moderately long.
The loin should be broad and powerful; neck long and muscular, but free from throatiness; coat hard, wiry, and straight, free from softness, silkiness, lock, or curl, shorter on head and face, a slight beard is the only longish hair (and is only long in comparison with the rest) that is permissible and characteristic - long hair on the upper jaw is wrong; colour should be "whole-coloured," the most preferred being bright red, red, red-wheaten, or yellow-red. The expression should be wicked, but intelligent; the dog must present an active, lively, lithe appearance, with lots of substance, yet at the same time free of clumsiness, as speed and endurance as well as power are essential.
Nothing in an Irish terrier should be out of proportion; the dog must be neither cloddy nor cobby, but should be framed on the lines of speed, showing a graceful racing outline.
Of recent years many ladies have been smitten with love for Paddy, and many of them are doing well, and are already successful exhibitors. I can assure those who are thinking of joining our ranks that they will receive a hearty welcome and help in the way of advice, and that they will find Paddy a lively and amusing companion.